While I was eating a leftover lunch yesterday, MLB Network was airing the highlights of the 2009 World Series. Mariano Rivera was talking and a depressing thought that I’d rather ignore dawned on me: at this time next year, it’s possible (probable) that Mo will have announced his retirement (hopefully after another World Series victory). It’s a thought we don’t like to have and luckily, Joe Girardi sort of dispelled it:
As for his own team, Girardi didn’t put much stock into the rumblings that this may Mariano Rivera’s last season. The Yankees’ closer turns 42 on Nov. 29.
“No, not necessarily,” Girardi said, when asked if he had gotten any sense this would be Rivera’s final year. “I think Mo takes it year by year and, depending on how he does, that will determine when it’s time for him to retire.”
I won’t believe either party until there’s something official, but as I think about Life After Mo, I find myself strangely calm. I’ve reconciled the fact that no one will be able to do it like Mariano does it and has done it since 1995. His combination of consistency and longevity is something we may never see again. No one pitcher will every truly replace Rivera. I’ve written about this before and I have this pipe dream that the Yankees ditch the one-inning-closer model, if only to alleviate pressure from Rivera’s successor. This has about as much a chance of happening as my becoming the Yankees’ play-by-play guy has.
But it’s the successor that I don’t worry about all that much. As they are currently constructed, the Yankees have at least three in-house Rivera replacements. Rafael Soriano is a candidate, and he’ll be in the last year of his contract. David Robertson is a candidate (if he cleans up his control) due to his poise and two pitch combination. And, of course, there’s an outside shot that Joba Chamberlain takes the role.
Life After Mo isn’t going to be as calming or as steady as Life With Mo has been, but I don’t want us to overstate the difference between Rivera and the next guy. I will miss Mo a lot and no one will ever make us forget him, but the Yankees are set up to make a relatively smooth transition from Mo to Not Mo.